Opinion: No Mitt Romney, Mexico is not like Palestine
This is nothing like the divide between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Mitt Romney has been accused of having a tin ear when it comes to the Hispanic community, but up until now he has at least avoided insulting entire Latin American countries. That particular distinction is now unfortunately no longer true. On his recent European tour Romney has taken his tone deafness to new levels by comparing Mexico to Palestine in a negative light.
Based on a quote in a recent New York Times piece on Gov. Romney’s disastrous comments attributing Palestine’s slow economic growth to “cultural differences,” Romney seems to be inferring that there is something culturally wrong with Mexico which is preventing it from achieving greater economic prosperity. Talking about Palestine and Israel Romney said:
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.”
There are several things wrong with this comparison. First the economies of Mexico and the United States are vitally important to each other. This only underscores the profound ties between our countries. As the third-largest U.S. trading partner behind only China and Canada, Mexico is critically important to America’s economic well being.
Roughly 6 million American jobs depend on trade with Mexico, including more than 460,000 jobs in Texas. Nationally, trade of U.S. goods and services with Mexico totaled $500 billion and exports totaled $223 billion in 2011. Furthermore, the Mexican economy is now actually growing faster than Brazil’s economy, which has long been held up as the premier Latin American economic model.
Secondly Mexico’s economy is in the midst of robust growth. An indication of this phenomenon is Mexico’s flourishing middle class. According to Luis de la Calle, an economist and former undersecretary of trade in the Mexican government and the co-author of the report Mexico: A Middle Class Society, Poor No More, Developed Not Yet, “As hard as it is for many of us to accept, Mexico is now a middle-class country.”
Finally Palestine and Israel are historic adversaries whereas Mexico and the United States have unprecedented levels of cooperation between their two countries. Mexico’s president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto recently said praised his country’s relationship with the United States: “A great opportunity lies before our two nations. Let’s seize it and rebuild our historic partnership on the basis of shared responsibility and mutual respect.”
It is highly unlikely that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would ever say such things about Israel.
Does Gov. Romney really think there is something culturally wrong with Mexico? In his completely inaccurate analysis, he seems to be indicating that some sort of cultural deficiency has rendered the country’s economy stagnant.
While this characterization is also completely false, this latest misstatement underscores Gov. Romney’s recent struggles to connect to Hispanic voters. In recent months Gov. Romney has attempted to augment his approach to the Hispanic community by focusing on economic and education issues. Given the disastrous mistakes made on his recent overseas trip, it appears that his real problem with the Hispanic community is a willful misuse of the facts and tone-deafness on issues important to these communities.
Kristian Ramos is policy director of the 21st Century Border Initiative and immigration reform for NDN, a liberal think tank.
(Photo: Flickr, J. Stephen Conn)